you're reading...

Social Assistance Review

Social Assistance Review: Hamilton Consultation’s Prescription for Reform (July 4, 2011)

Liveable Benefits, Living Wage Jobs, Transparent Rules and Government Support

About 150 people participated in the community consultation session with Commissioners Frances Lankin and Munir Sheikh in Hamilton on Monday, July 4.

Participant contributions fell into several major theme areas.

 Adequate Benefits and Wages above Poverty Line

The need for a system such as an independent expert panel to determine social assistance rates based on evidence of the real cost of living in the community was repeated often through the session. Recipients also need access to emergency funds for things such as transportation, medication, and coverage of dental, optometry and other important health-related services.  Access to affordable housing in all areas of the city is also key to escaping poverty.

There should be an end to precarious employment and assurance of a living wage that enables workers to live above the poverty line. Those moving off of social assistance into the labour market should not be subject to income claw-backs and should be allowed a sustained income at the living wage level for a period of time before other social assistance benefits are suspended to ensure a stable and lasting transition.

 Employment Supports

There is a need for real job training, not sporadic short-term courses. Employment services should be matched with employers that provide real work experience. Job training must be related to actual existing jobs in the labour market.  The labour market, however, must ensure decent jobs which pay a living wage. Better use of technology to help more people with disabilities be successful in employment.

 Clear and Transparent Rules   

Both OW/ODSP caseworkers and recipients are frustrated by complex, punitive and nit-picking rules, which need to be simplified and made more transparent, flexible and responsive to individual needs and situations. Better staff training is needed to improve communication between workers and recipients and a role for experienced recipients should be considered to help new recipients navigate the system.  Eligibility barriers for new applicants should be reduced, such as low asset thresholds, which just make it harder to get out of poverty even if one gets off of assistance.

Future of Social Assistance

Many participants asked that a universal program be established such as the guaranteed annual income and that current income supports be better integrated. Income supports systems should meet community living needs for food, housing and health. The federal, provincial and municipal governments need to work together on this and also ensure universal healthcare coverage (dental, vision). Corporations should be contributing more through fair taxation.

It is important to overcome discrimination and stigmatization of social assistance recipients, which means presenting a unified position to the public on the need for and rightness of a social assistance system that is effective in meeting the needs of people not able to be in the labour market for whatever reason in the short- or long-term.

Government’s Role

Government must understand that minor tweaks will not work. There is a need for a focused uncomfortable discussion about what needs to be changed. Government has a role to play in communicating this in a way to the public that helps build and maintain support.

Poverty Free Ontario thanks Susan Muma of the 25 in 5 Hamilton Network for Poverty Reduction for providing notes for this report.


2 Responses to “Social Assistance Review: Hamilton Consultation’s Prescription for Reform (July 4, 2011)”

  1. I have been stating what is need is a guaranteed annual income for all Canadians not just seniors.Unfortunately with Stephen Harper in Ottawa & in appears Tim Hudak in Queens Park we are going to be a long way from that!Don’t expect anything while they are there.

    Posted by Paul Shtogryn | July 8, 2011, 5:11 pm


  1. […] In the public meeting that followed, a number of people raised the issue of fair taxation as the means of sustaining supportive social supports and adequate benefits. For more information on the Hamilton consultation, read Social Assistance Review: Hamilton Consultation’s Prescription for Reform (July 4, 2011). […]

Post a Comment

Follow PFO